QPR vs. Chelsea October 2011. An EPL game with massive and enduring implications (well above and beyond the surprise three points it afforded the Rangers or for being one of the chief steps on the road to the ultimate Stamford Bridge downfall of Andre Villas-Boas).
The image and issues from that game will long be remembered, not for their impact on EPL success, failure and survival, but because of the clash between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand.
Arguably, it was the most controversial and resonant altercation in football history. The record shows how it brought an accusation of racism, a court case, an FA hearing, high-profile missed handshakes, a change of England manager, impact on the Euro 2012 squad and the international retirement of a centre-back, regular for around a decade.
So, racism’s once again a too-hot-to-handle, footballing hot potato.
Given all this, the whole controversy over wearing “Kick it out” t-shirts has left me puzzled. With Jason Roberts making the early running, the Ferdinands (Anton and his brother Rio of Manchester United) were quickly on board to say they wouldn’t wear the t-shirts either.
The rationale? To my mind, cloudy at best. That the twice-tried Terry should have received a longer FA ban. In addition a sense that the Kick It Out campaign “isn’t doing enough." The second of those in my view is a little like a regular supporting a team at the foot of League Two and opting out of going to see them because they’re in the relegation zone.
Few would question they’re doing their utmost, but just because they’re not in the EPL and some of their decision-making can leave head in hands surely doesn’t mean it’s time for the season tickets to be shredded.
The Ferdinand brothers have, of course, latterly issued a form of conciliation via a statemen -and, as reported here, Anton Ferdinand has now latterly worn the t-shirt., However I’m squarely behind the views of Cardiff City manager Malky MacKay, who said (via BBC Sport), "I just think it falls into the hands of the racists. They'll be delighted there is in-fighting as has been seen in the last few days."
A considered, rational view from a manager who, despite undoubtedly having both pro and anti t-shirt-factions in his dressing room, gave an overview with which I’m sure many wise heads will agree.
The desire to eliminate racism from football is perennial and, I’m certain, sincere through all facets of the game. So, surely it’s best tackled via unity, not disparity.
To my mind, pursuing a racism allegation through the country’s judicial and footballing authorities but failing to support the official campaign against it simply doesn’t add up.
From “Kick it out” to “Sort it out!” to ensure a united front against any racism anywhere in the game, be it dressing room, tea room or boardroom. And let’s start that today.
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